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Q&A with Hudl CEO David Graff

by Stephanie Kuzydym Published: December 28, 2012

Film study as soon as the game is over?

There’s an app for that.

On Thursday, The Oklahoman brought you a story about Hudl, the application that Oklahoma’s football program uses to study practice and game film, film on upcoming opponents and even highlight packages of recruits.

Nobody at Hudl contacted me back by the time the article printed, but yesterday I got a few emails from different people who work at Hudl including David Graff, the CEO. Graff offered to answer any questions I had so I sent him some questions. Following is a Q&A via email::

The Oklahoman: How can Hudl help an collegiate or high school sports program?

David Graff: Our mission is “help coaches win”. We provide coaches with simple tools to access their most important team content (video, scouting reports, presentations) from anywhere. Our software makes it easy to get film from any camera (including your iPhone or iPad) online to exchange to add coaching notes (telestrations, text, and voice) and share with players, to exchange with upcoming opponents, and to share with recruiters.

How many other collegiate football programs use the application and who are they?

We have 10 NFL teams (including the Jets, Patriots, and Redskins), eight NHL teams (including the Canucks, Redwings, and Sharks), two NBA teams (Celtics and Pacers), and 89 Division I college teams (including all 12 Pac-12 teams, 12 SEC teams, 11 Big 10 teams, 11 ACC teams, and nine Big 12 teams, and locally Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, and Tulsa). In addition, we have about 45% of FCS schools, 88% of both Division II and Division III schools, 98% of NAIA schools, and 90% of the junior colleges in the country.

How many high schools in Oklahoma use the application?

Over 300 high schools in Oklahoma use Hudl (about 85% of the football-playing high schools in the state). Nationally, over 11,000 high schools use Hudl (about 70% of the football-playing high schools).

Can Hudl be accessed on any tablet or phone that takes applications (Google, Android, Amazon, Apple)?

Yes – we have free apps for iPhone, iPod Touch, iPad, most newer Android phone and tablets, and the Kindle Fire.

How was the app developed? How long does it take? And would you advise others to do the same with an idea they have?

During college, I was a student worker in the (University of Nebraska) athletic department and then stayed on as a graduate assistant while working on my MBA. Through my work there, I had the opportunity to work directly with Bill Callahan (then head football coach of the Huskers) and saw firsthand some of the inefficiencies they had in their processes. If they wanted a player or coach to take video home or on the road with them, they were burning DVDs and losing all the value of the additional data and notes they had broken down on the video.

When we showed them the prototype in February 2006, Coach Callahan’s first reaction was ‘this is great – I want it for spring football’. We were less than a month from spring football starting and the prototype was a lot more smoke and mirrors than Coach Callahan realized at the time, but we agreed that if the Nebraska football staff would work with us over the next season to give us access to their players and coaches for feedback and would agree to come on as a paying beta, we would devote ourselves full time to building a solution for the Huskers to deliver the following spring.

Building Hudl has been an incredible experience, and I would absolutely recommend it to anyone who has a great idea that has been validated by customers that are willing to pay for it.

What is your favorite part of the application?

Good question. Probably the most exciting parts of the app for me, as a sports fan, are our Top Plays. Each week, schools can pick the best play from their game and build a SportsCenter-quality highlight with only a few clicks.

What have you learned in developing this application?

Get product in the hands of your customers as soon as possible and be ready to iterate fast based on their feedback. When we first developed Hudl for Nebraska, we spent too much time focused on the perceived needs of one team and not enough time surveying the market and getting product in the hands of a variety of customers. We applied these lessons when we entered the high school space and saw it pay off.

What is the goal of Hudl?

Help coach win and help make every athlete look like a badass.

How did the idea come about? Were you just sitting around one day with buddies and came up with the idea?

The idea to build this for colleges and professional teams came through my work with Coach Callahan at Nebraska. Our decision to move into the high school space was driven more by demand – as we were promoting Hudl at clinics and conventions, we kept hearing from high schools that they had the same issues as the University of Nebraska and the New York Jets did.

Knowing the rivalry between Nebraska and Oklahoma, what does it mean to you that the Sooners are using your application?

Haha… we love working with the Sooners. Growing up in Nebraska, we always had a lot of respect for Oklahoma as a rival. One of my roommates in grad school was actually from Norman High School – Zac Taylor (former Nebraska quarterback).

One of our board members and lead investors, Jeff Raikes (CEO of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and a big Husker fan) actually joked early that he was fine with us selling to anyone but Texas, Notre Dame, and Miami, all of whom are Hudl users now.

Is there anything else you’d like to add?

We have incredibly fun jobs in that we get to work with athletes, coaches, and their staff members that make the whole operation work. Our customers are very driven to win, and aren’t shy about providing feedback and suggestions to help make Hudl even better. We appreciate the #realtalk – keep it coming.

by Stephanie Kuzydym
Reporter
Stephanie Kuzydym learned at a young age that life is a game of inches. That's just one reason why she loves football. Kuzydym joined The Oklahoman in July 2012. Before arriving in the state, Kuzydym was an intern for the sports departments at...
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